Popular Superstitions - Witchcraft In Somersetshire
( Originally Published 1884 )
The following are Copies of Depositions as to certain charges of witchcraft, made in the county of Somerset, in the year 1664. The originals appear to have been wholly written by the magistrate before whom they were sworn.*
Yours, etc., W. L. W.
Somerset. Walter Thicke, of Bayford, in the county aforesd, yeoman, examined the 11 March, 1664, before Robert Stunt, esq., one ct.
Sayth, That about this tyme twelvemoneth hee had two oxen dyed suddenly, one of them in the plowe, and when they had opened the sd oxe they found noe signes of sicknesse about him, the other dyed in a strange manner; and this examt's neybours conceived the said oxe to bee bewitched ; and sth that hee lost a cowe, and all dyed in z or 3 weekes ; and since the sd Elizabeth Styles was taken up, the sd Styles bath confessed to this examt that shee (being angry with him for denyeing her some pease) sett a curse uppon the sd catle, and by that meanes they dyed, and desired this examt to forgive her for it. And this ext then asked the sd Styles why shee had not hurt his person ? she replyed, that she had noe power to doe it.
Taken uppon oath before me ROBT. STUNT.
Elizabeth Foarwood, of Bayford, in the county affoarsd, examined the 11 day of March, 1664, before Robert Stunt, one of his Mat's justices ct.
Sayeth, That she, together with Katherine Whyte, Mary Day, Bridgett Prankard, and Mary Boulster did, a little after Christmas last, search Elizabeth Style, and in her pole finde a little rysing or nobb of flesh, wch felt hard like a kernell of Beise, wch this examt suspectinge to bee an ill marke, did thrust a pinn into and then tooke it out, and after some short pauze, this examt did agen thrust in the pinn into the sd place and through the flesh, and thear lefte the sd pinn in the sd place for some tyme that the other woemen might allsoe see it, yet the sd Style did neyther first nor at the second tyme make the least shewe that she felt the sd prickinge of her flesh, whylest the sd pinn was putt in, or taken out, nor did any bloud issue out of the sd place. But this examt sayth that after, when the constable tould her hee would thrust in a pin to the sd place, the sd Style cryed out, " O Lord ! doe you prick mee," when in truith noe body did then soe much as touch it, nor her, but only made a shew of touchinge her pole. And this examt sayth, that since the sd Style was taken upp by the justice and examined before him, she confessed that her familiar did use to sucke her in the affoaresd place, in the shape of a flye, a great miller, or butter flye ; and sayth, that the said Style did likewise confesse to this examt she had signed her covenant wth the Devell by a dropp of her blond, and that she had promised the Devell to forsake God and Jesus Christe, and all the wayes of God ; and the sd Style sayd yt she had more to say, but that she had not power to bringe it out ; and farther sayth, that if she could speake wth her brother and sister at Shasbury, they could tell her of more witches than she knew, whoe had sealed but had not yet beene at any randvoes [rendezvous]. The marke of
ELIZABETH (E. F.) FOARWOODE.
Taken upon oath before mee ROBT. STUNT.
The examination of Nicolas Lambert, of Bayford, in the county of Somerset, yeom'. Taken before me the 30 of January, 1664, upon oath.
Sayth, that the Monday after Xmasday, he was in the house of Richard Still, where his daughter Elizabeth was taken very ill, and had very strong fits on her, soe that though she was sate downe in a chayre, yet six people could not keepe and hold her downe in the chayre, and that when her fits came on her they were not able to rule her. But she would rayse up her chayre, though six men held the same; and being in her fits, she would poynt with her handes where her tormt was, and this ext and the rest lookeing where she poynted, saw as it were thornes, and the prickes of thornes, in her bandes, hand wrests, and other places. And this ext farther sayth, that he, together wth William Thicke and Wm. Read, being ordered by Francis White, the tythingman of Bayford, to watch Elizabeth Style, who on Thursday night last in the evening committed to the sayd tythingman by the justice, upon suspicion of witchcraft ; and this examint reading in the Practice of Piety about 3 of ye clocke in the morning, Elizabeth Style being in the same room by the fire, there came from the head of the sd Eliz. Style a glittering and bright fly, about an inch in length, and soe much in breadth, which sayd fly pitched on a planke in the chimney and vanished away. This ext still kept on reading, and in less than a quarter of an hour there appeared two flyes more of a lesse size, and of another colour, and seemed to strike at this examt's hand, in which he held the sayd booke, but missed his hand, the one going over and the other under at one and the same tyme. The exams kept on reading, and at length being somewhat startled at the strang appearances of the sayd fflyes, this examt tould the sayd Style, but she would make noe answear, and this examt looking stedfast in her, did perceive her countenance to change and to be very blacke and ghastly, and the fire at the same tyme to change its colour, where upon this examt began to be sharp wth the sayd Style, and tould her that her familiar was now about her; whereupon this ext and the rest that were wth him searched her, and looked in her pole, where they perceived her hayre to whe'ver,* and shake very strangely ; and there found a fly like a millard ; which on a sudden rushed out and pitched on the table board, and suddenly vanished away. Then this examt and the rest with him looked again in her pole, wch was not as before, but was redde and like rawe meate. This examt asked Style what it was that went out of her pole; the sayd Style sayd it was a butterfly, and asked why they had not catched it ; and in some short tyme after they looked agen in her pole, and then it was of its former colour. And this examt demanding againe what that fly was that rushed out of her pole, and that made her pole soe red and raw, she then confessed that it was her familiar, and that she felt it to tickle in her pole at that time, and that was the usual tyme when the familiar came to her, and then the sayd Eliza. Style confessed she had made a covenant wth the devill ; and that she had signed it with her blood, which the devill had out of her finger next her little finger on her right hand. And that a man in blacke did usually appear to the sayd Eliz. Style, Alice Duke, and Anne Bushop, when they did meet at their randevouse, which sayd man in blacke was the devill as she thought, and that the man in blacke brought the picture of Richard Stile's daughter in wax; and the sayd Elizabeth Style confessed that she put a thorn into the handwrest of the sayd picture, and that the man in blacke put in more, and every one stuck in some.
Wm. Thick and Wm. Read, of Bayford, say upon their oathes that the examination above of Nicholas Lambert is truith.